Editor's note: An earlier version of the story mischaracterized content studio Cycle’s role in the 2018 Lincoln Navigator ad campaign. Cycle was hired to handle social media around the campaign; Hudson Rouge produced the ads.
DETROIT -- Kumar Galhotra knew there was only one company he wanted to work for after emigrating from India at age 18 to study mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
"It was just Ford," he recalled. "The whole time I was in school, you're not just surrounded by and immersed in cars, you're submersed in the Ford brand."
The school, 30 miles east of Michigan's flagship Ann Arbor campus, sits near Ford's world headquarters, product-development center and research buildings. Henry Ford's Fair Lane estate is steps away.
So, shortly before receiving his bachelor of science degree, Galhotra printed a stack of resumes and hand-delivered them in hopes of landing a job with the Blue Oval.
"I just drove from Building 1 to Building 3 to Building 5 and parked the car, walked in and asked somebody where the HR department was," he told Automotive News.
Galhotra's ambition paid off with a 30-year career at Ford that now has him taking on high-stakes responsibilities as the automaker's chief marketing officer. CEO Jim Hackett, impressed with the revival Galhotra has orchestrated since 2014 at the once-moribund Lincoln brand, tapped him to help the broader company build up its rapport with consumers.
"The question is going to be — and it's going to be really fun figuring it out — how do you take that icon and make it evolve with all these outside forces?" Galhotra, 52, said in an interview. "People associate attributes like strength, family and progress with the [Ford] brand. What we need to do is to treasure those strengths and leverage them into the new world."
Chris Poulos, a member of the Lincoln National Dealer Council, thinks Galhotra is up to this challenge.
"I've dealt with plenty of managers at many levels, and they'll be very quick to spew the company line. Kumar's not like that," said Poulos, general manager of West Point Lincoln in Houston. "He's very thoughtful. I think that translates very well to being able to lead a group of people that are on a journey to grow a brand. That's why I think Lincoln's been so successful."